Table of Contents
The bride’s walk down the aisle is always one of the highlights of a wedding ceremony, but a few other important people also make their grand entrance. The wedding processional refers to the group of people walking down the aisle in a specific order to mark the beginning of a wedding ceremony. The processional often includes a permutation of the officiant, the wedding party, flower girls, ring bearers, and the bride and groom and their parents.
Different types of weddings employ different processional orders, so we’re breaking it all down to ensure your bridal march runs as smoothly as possible.
Aside from the processional order, who is involved and where they are seated vary depending on the type of religious wedding service. “Both Hindu and Jewish ceremonies include more family members than traditional or nondenominational ceremonies,” says Victoria Miller of LUXE Atlanta Events. Jewish weddings, for instance, have both parties’ grandparents walking down the aisle. While for Hindu weddings, the parents are more involved in the processional, and the bride’s parents even sit with them under the traditional mandap.
Meet the Expert
Victoria Miller is the founder and lead wedding planner of LUXE Atlanta Events, a wedding planning and design firm.
If you want to switch things up and have more control over the processional, a nondenominational wedding may better suited for you. “Jewish, Hindu, and Catholic processionals are typically more stringent than traditional or nondenominational processionals,” says Miller, so consider a nondenominational ceremony for more flexibility. Check out our ultimate wedding processional order guide below to help you with your processional needs.
Traditional Christian Wedding Processional Order
- The Bride’s Mother: The mother of the bride’s entrance signals that the processional is about to begin. Once they reach the end of the aisle, they take their seat to the left of the aisle in the first row.
- The Groom: After the mother of the bride takes their seat, the groom will traditionally take their place at the head of the altar (coming in from the side of the venue or walking down the aisle solo). However, many couples choose to have the groom’s parents escort them down the aisle (then his parents sit to the right of the aisle in the front row).
- The Best Man: The best man either walks in from the side and takes their place at the altar next to the groom, or they can walk in as the last groomsman. They may also hold the bride’s ring (or both rings).
- The Groomsmen: The groomsmen open the processional as they walk down the aisle one by one.
- The Bridesmaids: The bridesmaids walk down the aisle one by one before the maid or matron of honor. Some couples may choose to have the groomsmen and bridesmaids walk in together in pairs.
- The Maid or Matron of Honor: Before the ceremony, the maid or matron of honor assists the bride with their dress, veil, and train, making sure everything looks perfect before they walk down the aisle. They then stand by the bride’s side at the altar, holding their bouquet and sometimes the groom’s ring.
- The Flower Girl(s) and Ring Bearer(s): The ring bearer and flower girl precede the bride down the aisle. Traditionally, the ring bearer carries the wedding rings (or decoys, if they’re too little to be trusted with the real things), tied to a small pillow. The flower girl may carry a basket of petals, which they scatter as they walk, or a posy of flowers. After the procession is over and the rings are handed off to the best man, the children’s work is done, and they can be seated with their parents.
- The Father of the Bride and the Bride: The bride’s father traditionally escorts their daughter down the aisle, standing to the bride’s right. After the father of the bride “gives them away,” they lift the veil and kiss the bride, signifying their blessing, then takes their seat beside the bride’s mother.
Traditional Jewish Wedding Processional Order
- The Rabbi and/or Cantor: Either or both officiants would stand at the altar under the traditional chuppah to signal the beginning of the processional.
- The Grandparents of the Bride: The bride’s grandparents walk down the aisle first. Once they reach the front, they are seated in the first row, on the right side. In Jewish ceremonies, the bride’s family and guests sit on the right and the groom’s family and friends sit on the left.
- The Grandparents of the Groom: The groom’s grandparents will follow. Once they reach the front, they sit in the front row on the left side. Jewish weddings involve more family members than other ceremonies, including both parties’ grandparents.
- The Groomsmen walk down the aisle in pairs, starting with those standing farthest from the groom.
- The Best Man: During the processional, the best man walks solo after the groomsmen and takes their place as the right-hand man of the groom.
- The Groom: The groom proceeds to walk down the aisle accompanied by their parents, with his father on the left and his mother on the right.
- The Bridesmaids: The bridesmaids then proceed in pairs, starting with those standing farthest from the bride.
- The Maid or Matron of Honor: The bride’s right-hand woman walks alone.
- The Ring Bearer(s) and/or the Flower Girl(s): The ring bearer walks down the aisle followed by the flower girl. They then sit with their parents after walking down the aisle.
- The Parents of the Bride and the Bride: The parents of the bride escort them down the aisle, with the father on the bride’s left arm and her mother on the right. Parents of both the bride and groom can stand under the chuppah with the couple if they wish.
Traditional Hindu Wedding Processional Order
- The Groom, the Groom’s Family, and Friends: “The groom enters with all of their friends and family in a celebration called a Baraat where traditionally they will arrive on a [white] horse as everyone dances around him,” says Miller. This festive Baraat marks the beginning of a Hindu wedding ceremony.
- The Bride’s Family: The bride’s family will wait for the groom and his family to arrive. The parents of the bride may feed the groom sweets and exchange gifts or flower garlands with the groom’s parents. They will then head to the mandap, the traditional Hindu arch together.
- The Bride and the Bridal Party: The bride then enters and walks down the aisle together with the rest of their family, wedding party, and friends. Their bridal party will walk down the aisle first in an attempt to hide the bride for the big reveal. Then the bride walks down the aisle until reaching the mandap and exchanges garlands with the groom. Then the couple, the parents of the bride, and the priest will sit under the mandap to begin the ceremony.
Traditional Nondenominational Wedding Processional Order
- The Officiant: The officiant can be a friend, family member, or anyone ordained to perform weddings. The officiant will be standing at the altar to mark the beginning of the processional.
- The Groom: The groom and his groomsmen can already be at the altar before the processional starts, coming in from the side. However, many modern grooms choose to walk down the aisle.
- The Best Man: Depending on what the groom decides, the best man will do the same. If the groom opts to enter from the side and wait at the altar, the best man should be by their side. If the groom decides to walk down the aisle during the processional, the best man will follow.
- The Groomsmen Then Bridesmaids: The bridesmaids and the groomsmen will typically walk in pairs, starting from those who will stand farthest from the couple.
- The Maid or Matron of Honor: The maid or matron of honor will walk alone after other bridal party members.
- The Flower Girl(s) and/or Ring Bearer(s): The children chosen will walk down the aisle one after the other. They can sit with their parents once they are done.
- The Bride and/or the Bride’s Parents: The bride may be escorted by their father, mother, or both. Or they may decide to not have an escort and meet their parents halfway. Nondenominational wedding processionals are extremely customizable, so you can definitely make the entrance you want.
The wedding processional is the opener for the nuptial ceremony. Once all important members of the bridal party have entered and walked down the aisle, the ceremony begins.
A wedding processional typically lasts between three to five minutes, depending on the number of people taking part. The bride’s walk down the aisle can take up to one minute of that time.
If the mother of the bride is taking part in the wedding processional, she is traditionally escorted by a close male relative like a son or brother or may enter alone. If the parents are divorced, she may be escorted by her partner. In some cases, a groomsman or best man will escort her down the aisle.
Processional traditions go back many centuries. When arranged marriages were common, fathers would bring their daughters to the wedding and walk them down the aisle to meet their husbands for the first time. The bridesmaids helped the bride-to-be prepare for the wedding and were part of the procession.
There are many ways to make your processional unique. You can accomplish this by having different members of your family or wedding party walk in the processional, either ahead of you or with you. Don’t feel constrained by only including those family members who are “traditionally” in the procession.
There are several options for a bride to enter without her father. The bride can enter by herself, with her mother, or with her spouse-to-be—it’s completely up to her.
While the traditional “Bridal Chorus” (aka “here comes the bride”) is commonly used, don’t feel you are restricted to playing that. Choose a song that is special to you and your partner to personalize the processional.